Start of a pen

I was hoping to have a full set of photos of this pen construction – the first time I’ve tried making a BT-401 (a version of the Mont-Blanc pen style) from Carbatec in preparation for the demo day I’m putting on 31 July (last Saturday of the month) at Carbatec, Melbourne (10am-12pm)  Thought I’d better actually try making one or two before the day!

Pen Vice

I started by choosing a blank, in this case an acrylic camo pen blank I bought at the Brisbane Wood Show.  Using the pen vice I recently got from Carbatec, this was the first time I used it for an actual pen rather than playing with it, and it worked perfectly – it is a very well-made pen vice, and for the first time I didn’t have to think about whether the blank was actually vertical.  It may not be essential for making pens, but it is nice having a tool dedicated to a specific task – it removes any small stresses that otherwise result from compromise.  The one thing I still need to acquire here (other than a drill press with less run-out!) is a drill bit that is more suitable, and closer in diameter to the brass insert.  At the moment the bit is 0.25mm oversized, and I feel it results in a fit that is a little looser than I’d like.

I also don’t think the standard bit works as well dealing with the waste material, especially acrylic.  If the waste isn’t cleared efficiently, and the bit doesn’t cut as well as it should there is a potential for the operation getting hotter than is necessary, and I personally believe that overheating the blank at this point results in more failures during the turning and finishing stages than any other step.  Too much heat weakens the blank, whether it is acrylic (which already suffers badly from heat), or timber which dries and/or develops microcracks when overheated.  You don’t realise it at this step, but pay the price near the end when the blank is turned down to final (thin wall) dimensions.

Now you see it..... soon you won't!

Mounted on the lathe with the correct bushes and started turning down the first blank.  I will be very curious to see it actually works – first time with any new pen design is always a little uncertain. I got most of the first half of the pen turned, then the demands of having an under 5 year-old in the household called me away, so I haven’t managed to progress the pen any further at this stage.  The camo blank looks to be working well too – more of a vietnam era jungle green than a modern camo, but that is fine too.  This came from one of the 1m long blanks I bought in Brisbane – very little waste so far!

More to come as the pen is finished.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Stu,
    Re drilling acrylic, here’s some info from an old edition of Fine Woodworking :- “Drilling acrylics or polycarbonates-A regular drill bit run at 300rpm works in acrylics and polycarbonates if you back out frequently to clear chips…For higher speed production work, a special bit with a 60 degree point works best.” Jeff Kurka, writing in Fine Woodworking, No. 105, 1994, pp61.
    Hope this helps a ‘bit’…boom, boom!
    Cheers, Gerry

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